Home Politics Ohio House bill concerning revisions to ballot language moves to Senate

Ohio House bill concerning revisions to ballot language moves to Senate

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A tax bill that aims to revise how tax levies are explained on ballots, making them more comprehensible to voters and homeowners was introduced in the Ohio Senate on Monday.

House Bill 76 was introduced in February in the Ohio House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee, and an amended version passed in the House late last week. 

Fifty-four representatives voted in favor of the measure, with 39 representatives voting against it. Every Republican voted in support of the measure with the exception of four lawmakers. No Democrats voted in favor.

If passed in the Senate and approved by Gov. Mike DeWine, the bill will change the information displayed on voters’ ballots about property tax levies, defining explicit rates and taxable values instead of a millage rate, a tax rate used to calculate property taxes.

It will also require a ballot to reveal the estimated amount of money a tax levy would generate annually, while also changing the font of a property tax measure to match the text style of the other issues on the ballot.

On previous years’ ballots, voters saw the term “millage rate.” The millage rate represents $1 per every $100 based on a homeowner’s market value. 

Millage rates are multiplied by the total taxable value of a home (35% of the property for Ohio homeowners) to calculate the amount of property taxes needed to be paid, according to the bill’s analysis. Rep. Derrick Merrin (R-Monclova Township) — the bill’s primary sponsor — believes this confuses voters.

“The illustration on the ballot hasn’t been updated since 1930,” Merrin said. “The goal (of the bill) is trying to explain to someone how it will impact their property.”

HB 76 revises the ballot language to make it relevant to current home values. Meaning, instead of displaying a tax rate based in terms of taxable value, the ballot presents the tax based in terms of dollars for each $100,000 of fair market value.

Instead of using mills, the bill works to use the tax’s actual monetary cost. Take a $100 property for example. A 12-mill rate is equal to a 1.2% property tax. Instead, HB 76 would read the property tax as $1.20, instead of using millage rates.

Rep. Jay Edwards (R-Nelsonville) hopes that Athens residents will benefit from this refined explanation in voter ballots.

“(The bill) allows transparency on the ballot. It will allow voters to know exactly what they’re voting on, how it’s going to affect them,” Edwards said. “And I tend to think that actually a lot of times, it will help pass levies.”

“People tend to not understand a millage that was done way back a long time ago that goes by the hundreds.”

Critics who spoke out against the bill fear homeowners will confuse the value of their property with the “$100,000 fair-market value,” prompting miscalculations of taxes that an individual will owe for their property.

 Some representatives aren’t happy the bill passed in the House. Rep. Lisa Sobecki (D-Toledo) explained that the revision was already proposed in the operating budget of House Bill 166, but DeWine line-item vetoed it.

“I think it’s going to be even more confusing to voters when they go to the ballot box,” Sobecki said.

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